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Darius Milhaud (1926), Paris

Darius Milhaud (French: [daʁjys mijo]; 4 September 1892 – 22 June 1974) was a French composer and teacher. He was a member of Les Six—also known as The Group of Six—and one of the most prolific composers of the 20th century. His compositions are influenced by jazz and make use of polytonality. Darius Milhaud is to be counted among the modernist composers.[1]

Life and career[edit]

Born in Marseilles to a Jewish family from Aix-en-Provence, Milhaud began as a violinist, later turning to composition instead. Milhaud studied in Paris at the Paris Conservatory where he met his fellow group members Arthur Honegger and Germaine Tailleferre. He studied composition under Charles Widor and harmony and counterpoint with André Gedalge. He also studied privately with Vincent d'Indy. From 1917 to 1919, he served as secretary to Paul Claudel, the eminent poet and dramatist who was then the French ambassador to Brazil, and with whom Milhaud collaborated for many years, setting music for many of Claudel's poems and plays. While in Brazil, they collaborated on a ballet, L'Homme et son désir.[2]

On his return to France, Milhaud composed works influenced by the Brazilian popular music he had heard, including compositions of Brazilian pianist and composer Ernesto Nazareth. Le bœuf sur le toit includes melodies by Nazareth and other popular Brazilian composers of the time, and evokes the sounds of Carnaval. The recurring theme is, in fact, a Carnaval tune by the name of "The Bull on the Roof" (in Portuguese which he translated to French 'Le boeuf sur le toit', known in English as 'The Ox on the Roof'). He also produced Saudades do Brasil, a suite of twelve dances evoking twelve neighborhoods in Rio. Shortly after the original piano version appeared, he orchestrated the suite.

On a trip to the United States in 1922, Darius Milhaud heard "authentic" jazz for the first time, on the streets of Harlem, [3] which left a great impact on his musical outlook. The following year, he completed his composition La création du monde (The Creation of the World), using ideas and idioms from jazz, cast as a ballet in six continuous dance scenes.[3]

In 1925, Milhaud married his cousin, Madeleine (1902–2008), an actress and reciter. In 1930 she bore him a son, the painter and sculptor Daniel Milhaud, who was the couple's only child.[4]

The rise of Nazism forced the Milhauds to leave France in 1940 and emigrate to the United States (his Jewish background made it impossible for Milhaud to return to his native country until after its liberation).[5] He secured a teaching post at Mills College in Oakland, California, where he composed the opera Bolivar (1943) and collaborated with Henri Temianka and the Paganini Quartet. In an extraordinary concert there in 1949, the Budapest Quartet performed the composer's 14th String Quartet, followed by the Paganini Quartet's performance of his 15th; and then both ensembles played the two pieces together as an octet.[6] The following year, these same pieces were performed at the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado, by the Paganini and Juilliard String Quartets.[7]

The jazz pianist Dave Brubeck became one of Milhaud's most famous students when Brubeck furthered his music studies at Mills College in the late 1940s. In a February 2010 interview with Jazzwax, Brubeck said he attended Mills, a women's college (men were allowed in graduate programs), specifically to study with Milhaud, saying, "Milhaud was an enormously gifted classical composer and teacher who loved jazz and incorporated it into his work. My older brother Howard was his assistant and had taken all of his classes."[8] Brubeck named his first son Darius.

Milhaud's former students also include popular songwriter Burt Bacharach.[9] Milhaud told Bacharach, "Don't be afraid of writing something people can remember and whistle. Don't ever feel discomfited by a melody".[10]

Milhaud (like his contemporaries Paul Hindemith, Gian Francesco Malipiero, Alan Hovhaness, Bohuslav Martinů and Heitor Villa-Lobos) was an extremely rapid creator, for whom the art of writing music seemed almost as natural as breathing. His most popular works include Le bœuf sur le toit (a ballet which lent its name to the legendary cabaret frequented by Milhaud and other members of Les Six), La création du monde (a ballet for small orchestra with solo saxophone, influenced by jazz), Scaramouche (for saxophone and piano, also for two pianos), and Saudades do Brasil (dance suite). His autobiography is titled Notes sans musique (Notes Without Music), later revised as Ma vie heureuse (My Happy Life).

From 1947 to 1971, he taught alternate years at Mills and the Paris Conservatoire, until poor health, which caused him to use a wheelchair during his later years (beginning in the 1930s), compelled him to retire. He died in Geneva at the age of 81, and he was buried in the Saint-Pierre Cemetery in Aix-en-Provence.[11]


Darius Milhaud was very prolific and composed for a wide range of genres. His opus list ended at 443.

See List of compositions by Darius Milhaud.

Notable students[edit]

Archival collections[edit]

Selected filmography[edit]


  1. ^ Reinhold Brinkmann & Christoph Wolff, Driven into Paradise: The Musical Migration from Nazi Germany to the United States (Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1999), 133. ISBN 0-520-21413-7.
  2. ^ Notes Without Music: An Autobiography. New York: Da Capo Press, 1970.
  3. ^ a b "Milhaud - La création du monde" (of Darius Milhaud, English language), Pomona College, Department of Music, 1999, webpage: PomonaEdu-Milhaud-Creation.
  4. ^ The Independent. Obituary, 31 March 2008. London.
  5. ^ Madeleine and Darius Milhaud, Hélène and Henri Hoppenot, Conversation: Correspondance 1918–1974, complétée par des pages du Journal d’Hélène Hoppenot, ed. Marie France Mousli (Paris: Gallimard, 2006), 182–84.
  6. ^ Mills College program of August 10, 1949, in Archives of Henri Temianka Estate.
  7. ^ Aspen Institute program of July 26, 1950, in Archives of Henri Temianka Estate.
  8. ^ Brubeck interview.
  9. ^ Mihai Cucos, "A Few Points about Burt Bacharach …", Perspectives of New Music 43, no. 1 (Winter 2005): 198–211. Citation on 200.
  10. ^ Mihai Cucos, "A Few Points about Burt Bacharach …", Perspectives of New Music 43, no. 1 (Winter 2005): 198–211. Citation on 205.
  11. ^ Centre Darius Milhaud: Cimetière Saint Pierre.

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darius_Milhaud — Please support Wikipedia.
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87 news items

The Guardian

The Guardian
Wed, 27 Aug 2014 09:07:30 -0700

... while Iannis Xenakis's Oresteia compresses the whole drama into just 50 minutes, with a single baritone protagonist and children and adult choruses. Neither, though, is on anything like the scale of Darius Milhaud's L'Orestie d'Eschyle, which ...
Mlive Kalamazoo
Wed, 27 Aug 2014 04:03:45 -0700

They will perform works by Ernest Bloch, George Frideric Handel, Darius Milhaud, Felix Mendelssohn, Irving Berlin, and Leonard Bernstein. stein.jpg Bill Stein organized "A Musical Sabbath," which will be held Sept. 5 at Temple B'nai Israel.Courtesy photo.
Fri, 29 Aug 2014 07:48:45 -0700

He teamed with artists who would have even greater success later on: Van Morrison, Neil Diamond, Jimmy Page, Phil Spector, Burt Bacharach (who studied with Darius Milhaud and wrote the Shirelles' beautiful, ghostly “Baby It's You” before going on to ...


Mon, 04 Aug 2014 14:22:30 -0700

La folle histoire du Petit Chaperon Rouge est un spectacle pour enfants qui se joue durant tout le mois d'août au théâtre Darius Milhaud. S'amusant du conte original et lui apportant une petite touche de modernité, le spectacle promet de plaire aux ...
The Plain Dealer - cleveland.com
Sun, 24 Aug 2014 09:52:30 -0700

Francois Dumont and Jiayan Sun paired up to play a crisp and articulate Allegro con spirito from Mozart's Sonata for two pianos in D major and the popular "Scaramouche" suite by Darius Milhaud. The temperamental match between these two artists was just ...

New York Classical Review

New York Classical Review
Wed, 27 Aug 2014 08:02:14 -0700

16 & Oct. 17), songs from Darius Milhaud (Nov. 6) and a program of music inspired by the “Kreutzer Affair” (Nov. 14). Check their site regularly for updates. Chamber music at Carnegie Hall features Yefim Bronfman with the Emerson String Quartet (Oct ...
Allentown Morning Call
Wed, 20 Aug 2014 18:53:59 -0700

Darius Milhaud's Suite, Op. 157b, was composed in 1936, when he was around 44 years old. cComments. Got something to say? Start the conversation and be the first to comment. Add a comment. 0. The first movement, "Ouverture," immediately establishes a ...
Wed, 06 Aug 2014 09:30:00 -0700

7:30 p.m. An Hour with Dave Brubeck - The late Brubeck discusses his childhood, and musical influences from jazz pianist Art Tatum to classical composer Darius Milhaud. Music featured includes a very early recording of Brubeck "imitating" Tatum, Teddy ...

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